Saturday, September 15, 2007

Former life department: IT systems analyst

When God was handing out careers, he could have given me a few: journalism, marketing, teaching, PR...and computers, I think.

This was highlighted Friday at work, when one of the managers came up to me - frantic - and asked me why one Word file didn't look like her other Word file.

Now, long have I been the unofficial IT guy in our office. Our true IT department sits across the street in the administrative building. Most employees figure that, instead of waiting for IT to come over and rescue them, they come see me.

So when I went downstairs to help the manager, I hit one button (the "Print Layout View" one in the bottom left corner) and fixed her document, and she sighed with thanks.

Is this what I was put on Earth to do? Help people figure out their computer stuff?

The signs are all there. I remember last winter at Cassandra's house getting into a multiple hour-long conversation with an Italian from New York about which high-powered Mac to buy. He has long survived on G5s, the former king daddies, and was thinking about switching to the new Intel models. As soon as he heard the words "oh-ess-ten" come out of my mouth, I was automatically his expert.

I helped Katie buy her HP laptop. I set up a blueberry iMac G3 for my grandma to learn the Internet. I'm the proud owner of more computers than some small businesses. And I fix stuff at work when it's not even my job.

Now I'm getting into web site creation and blogging, and I'm mulling over choices like what company should host my site, and what should my ".com" name be, and whether to use my current Blogger site or switch to WordPress (which people seem to adore). So many choices.

What's nice about blogging is it satisfies two of my cravings: writing and computers. The journalist in me will always long for an audience and a creative outlet, while learning about how to host my own blog and URL address is exciting in its own right.

And step by step, I'm teaching myself HTML - which I actually enjoy and have fun playing around with.

I wrote about hobbies, and how they often define who we consider ourselves to be; maybe this is my hobby. I'm a computer geek.

My training certainly started like most people my age: Macs in elementary, teaching typing or painting or how to use the trash icon. It's how I first fell in love with SimCity. When I moved in with my dad, and he bought a Packard Bell 486, I tinkered with that machine enough to leave it a smoking husk.

A few weeks ago I went to this guy Curtis's house to check out his Mac museum - a setup in his basement that hosts everything from the original Macintosh and Lisa to a OS X G5 server. I took the two Macs I found at our June e-waste drive, a Quadra and an LCII, and we took them apart and hooked them up and got them running again.

Curtis even showed me how to take apart a Mac SE and put it back together again. Katie and I have been playing "Oregon Trail" in full nine-inch-screen, black-and-white glory. It has "Wheel of Fortune," too, which I plan on playing with grandma.

I do like to workout, and fish, and travel, and argue about politics, and read and write, and I'm acquiring a taste for automobiles - all these are the usual "guy" hobbies, right?

But there's something about a box of chips and spinning disks and blowing fans that tickles the reptilian pleasure center in my brain.

Call me a geek - I'm okay with that. But we have to be passionate about something, and it helps when it's something we're good at.

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